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Winter Annual Planting Considerations

It’s no secret we have had an extremely dry past couple months here in Stephens county. However with rain chances being a little better in the coming week, livestock and hay producers will be thinking about getting winter annuals planted for grazing or spring hay. So today I want to talk a little about winter annual planting and some considerations you should be thinking about.

Planting Rates and Depths

Annual ryegrass, cereal rye, oats, and wheat are some of the most common winter annual choices for forage producers in northeast Georgia.  Seeding rates vary for these depending on whether you are planting with a drill or broadcasting with a spreader. Annual ryegrass is one of the most commonly planted winter annual here in our area. If you are drilling annual ryegrass you should shoot for around 25 pounds per acre and 30 pounds per acre if broadcasted. Annual ryegrass should be planted at a depth of ¼ to ½ of an inch. Small grains such as cereal rye, wheat, and oats should be planted at 90 pounds to the acre if drilled and 120 pounds to the acre if broadcasted. All of these species should be planted at a depth of ½ to 1 inch deep.


Pre-Plant Maintenance and Calibration

Before operating or calibrating a drill, be sure to conduct all preventative maintenance so that it is properly functioning. Preventative maintenance is often overlooked and can lead to stand failures and equipment malfunctions. A few key maintenance objectives include checking the tire pressure on all wheels, greasing all fittings, and oiling the drive chains. The next step is to check the function of some of the key working parts of the drill such as the seed metering units, the no-till coulters, the double-disk openers, and the press wheels. Running a drill across rough or rocky terrain can severely damage the components and prevent proper operation. Check to make sure that the coulters on the front, the openers in the middle and the press wheels in the back are not chipped, bent, or wobbling. Once you have ensured the drill has been properly serviced it is important to perform a calibration prior to planting. Calibration is important to ensure proper seeding rate and depth. If you have questions or need help calibrating your drill fell free to call me here at the extension office.


Getting the crop planted and just letting it grow is definitely an option, however why not try and produce the highest yield possible? Applying 40 to 50 lbs. of nitrogen (N) per acre at planting or soon after the plants emerge will increase growth, tillering (thickening of the stand), and provide earlier grazing. A second application of 40 to 50 lbs. of N per acre should be applied in mid-winter to increase winter and spring forage production. Because ryegrass is longer-lived, a third application of 40 to 50 lbs. of N per acre may be needed in early spring when ryegrass is used for late spring grazing, hay, or as a silage crop.

Now that we are finally getting the moisture needed to provide for good establishment of winter annuals it is time to begin getting seed in the ground.